Friday, January 28, 2011

Enchiladas with traditional red sauce

The word 'Enchilada' litarally means 'in chilie' in spanish refering to a tortilla being dipped in chilie sauce. This is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of corn tortillas stuffed with different fillings of cheese, meat, chicken, refried beans, etc and rolled up, covered in a spicy sauce and baked.  
There can be many different versions of enchiladas based on the following
  • Tortilla fillings - Traditionally enchiladas are stuffed with cheese, chicken and meat. You can experiment with a bunch of other fillings in any combination-- vegetables, fish, shrimp, pork, black beans along with cheese.
  • Sauce preparation - Some of the popular enchilada sauces are - Enchiladas Rojas- the traditional red sauce made with tomatoes and chilie. Verde sauce- green sauce made with green tomatillos and green chillies. Chipotle sauce - prepared using chipotle chilies. Mole sauce - rich and smoky sauce made with chocolate and chilies and nuts. Suiza - creamy white cheesy sauce made with swiss cheese.
  • Toppings - Grated cheese, green onions, shredded lettuce, chopped olives, avocado, chopped tomatoes, jalepeno or habanero peppers, red onions, corriander and sour cream.

Whichever combintion you choose you are bound to make an incredibly delicious and satisfying dish. Here is what I used for this version.

Ingredients: (makes 4-6 servings)
6-8 corn tortillas large sized (can use whole wheat variety as well)
For the filling
1 can black beans drained
3 cooked chicken breasts chopped in small pieces (omit for a vegetarian version)
2 large tomatoes chopped
1 red onions chopped
grated sharp cheddar
salt to taste
black pepper
For the red enchilada sauce(I make it more like a taco sauce)
4 large tomatoes chopped
1 large red onion chopped
habanero pepper chopped(optional)
2-3 cloves garlic
1 large green pepper chopped
cumin, orageno and salt to taste
1 small can of tomato paste
For toppings
Chopped green onions
Shredded lettuce
Extra heat by chopped jalepeno
Plain yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer)
Extra grated cheese
  • Prepare the sauce by heating 2 tsp oil in a large pan. Add onion and garlic and saute till pink.
  • Add green peppers and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Now add all oher ingredients for the sauce and bring to a boil. Add a 1/4 cup water if the consistency is too thick. Simmer for 15 minutes. Keep aside.
  • Prepare the filling by mixing all the ingredients of the filling together.
  • To assemble the Enchilada casserole spread a 1/4 of the sauce at the base of a greased baking dish.
  • Heat the corn tortillas in the microwave for 30-40 seconds to soften them. Lay one tortilla on the working surface and put a generous amont of filling in the middle. Roll the tortilla and place seam side down on the sauce in the baking dish. Repeat till all the tortillas are assembled.
  • Spread the rest of the sauce over the tortillas covering them well. Top with some grated cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil.
  • Bake at 375F covered for 30-40 minutes till the contents start to bubble.
  • Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes to brown the cheese.
  • Serve hot topped with lettuce, olives, green onions, jalepeno pepper and a dollop of yogurt.
  • Left overs taste even more incredible the next day. just reheat in the microwave covered on medium power level till heated through.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lunch ideas - part three

These following recipes are all very popular in my house and almost every week one or more of these either get packed (for school and work) or served, for lunch. Using loads of colorful vegetables and whole grain pasta, tortilla, brown rice, and flavourful condiments make all these very wholesome lunch options.

Smoked salmon and Ricotta cheese on bruschetta

  1. Toast slices of french baguette till lightly brown and crisp.
  2. Spread ricotta cheese flavored with dill and cracked black pepper.
  3. Top with a slice of smoked salmon. Mmmmm.
  4. Spread lingonberry sauce on another slice and top with smoked salmon.
  5. Serve alongside sugar snap peas and carrot sticks.

Greek-inspired pasta salad
Ingredients: (Serves one)
3/4 cup dry whole grain fusilli or bow tie pasta
1 cup sliced rainbow peppers
1 small tomato chopped
4 pitted kalamata olives sliced
2 square inch piece of feta cheese crumbled
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 tsp dry oregano and basil
1 tsp olive oil
salt to taste
Red chili flakes (optional.)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  1. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  2. In a pan heat olive oil and add garlic and herbs. Saute for 30 seconds.
  3. Add peppers and salt and stir for 2-3 minutes just till peppers get coated with all the herbs but still remain crisp.
  4. Take it off heat and add tomatoes, olives, feta, vinegar. Stir to mix.
  5. Serve hot sprinkled with red pepper flakes.

Black bean Burritos
Ingredients: (Serves four)
4-5 whole wheat flour tortillas
1 can black beans drained
1 small red onion chopped
2 tomatoes chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 small green pepper chopped
1 jalapeno pepper chopped (optional)
1/2 cup grated cheese (any kind your choice)
1 tbsp oregano
salt to taste
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp lime juice
  1. In a pan heat olive oil and add garlic, red onion, green pepper, oregano, salt, and cumin.
  2. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly till green pepper softens a bit. Add tomatoes and beans and mix well.
  3. Take off the heat and add lime juice. cool this mixture completely before adding the grated cheese in it.
  4. To assemble heat the tortilla in the microwave for 10 seconds to make it pliable. Spread it on a chopping board and spoon the bean mixture in the center. Add jalapenos and hot habanero sauce on top.
  5. Option 1 Roll the wrap burrito style and serve topped with lettuce, olives and a spoon of plain yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer).
  6. Option 2 wrap burrito style and heat it on a nonstick skillet on medium heat till crisp and slightly brown. Serve topped with lettuce and olives and a spoon of plain yogurt.

Brown rice pulao
Ingredients:(serves 4)
1 1/2 cups Brown basmati rice
4 cups chopped vegetables (carrots, celery, red and green pepper, green onions, lima beans, peas)
2 tbsp olive oil
chopped garlic
1 tsp dry thyme
salt to taste
1 tbsp hot sauce
lime juice to taste
1 can black beans, drained  OR 1/2 cup chopped cooked ham(optional)
  1. Boil rice with 1 tsp salt according to package instructions. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  2. In a large pan, heat oil and add garlic and thyme. stir for 30 seconds.
  3. Add all the vegetables and a bit of salt and cook stirring constantly for 5-7 minutes till tender crisp.
  4. Add boiled rice and hot sauce, lime juice. Stir to coat the rice with all the other ingredients for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Optional mix the beans Or ham in the rice and serve hot.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snack and Lunch Ideas- part two

I am extremely fond of making one-dish meals, especially for lunch. Trying to combine several food groups in one dish is not always easy and doesn't always turn out to everyone's liking. Following are some combinations that have worked in my family.

Sweet Potato 

Roasted sweet potato 
Sweet potato is not just a plain old potato with extra flavor. It is one of nature's abundant sources of beta-carotene having a superior ability to raise our vitamin A levels. With anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, one large steamed sweet potato is less than 100 calories. Have a steamed or roasted potato as a snack by flavoring with lime juice and dry mint. To roast, peel and slice the potato, spray with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and dry mint. Roast on high till done. Serve hot sprinkled with lime juice.

Roasted sweet potato for lunch
Serve roasted potato with slices of pineapple, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, celery and jalapeno peppers sprinkled with any salad dressing sparingly. roasted sweet potato tastes great warm and cold alike.

Chickpea and grape salad for lunch
1 can chickpeas drained
1/2 cup grapes halved
1 large orange peeled and chopped
1/2 cucumber chopped
salt to taste
Hint of sugar
Lime juice to taste
Bunch of fresh mint
handful fresh parsley or coriander
Mix all the ingredients together and let the flavors blend in for at least two hours before serving. Taste good cold or warm alike.

Coconut and peanut salad for lunch 
This is a great salad for lunch. Prepare ahead of time and mix lime juice just before you eat. For recipe click here.

Soup/stew for lunch
You can create your own soup recipe or simply follow the recipe here. Either way you are in for a wonderful, soul-warming experience, especially in winter time. Just add whatever vegetables, leftover chicken, fish, beans, grains you have at hand and boil it together to the desired consistency. I especially like stew with thick chunky veggies and loads of broth.

1 tsp olive oil plus 1 tsp butter
4-5 cups of chopped vegetables (carrot, green onion, celery, potato, tomato, red pepper, green pepper, spinach, etc. )
chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 tsp herbs(basil, parsley)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2-3 cups water
1 cup boiled beans(black beans, chickpeas, any kind) OR cooked chicken shredded
1/4 cup quinoa OR soup noodles
salt to taste
cracked black pepper
  1. In a large stockpot, heat the oil and butter for a minute and add garlic and red onion. 
  2. Saute on high for 2 minutes till pink. 
  3. Add all the vegetables along with seasoning and herbs and cook for 2 minutes to coat the veggies with everything. 
  4. Now add the broth and water and bring to boil. 
  5. At this point add the beans and noodles or quinoa if using. If you are using cooked chicken, add it after 5 minutes so as not to make it tough. 
  6. Simmer for 10 minutes. 
  7. Serve with crisps or croutons.

Almond Or Peanut Butter
Have apple slices or celery sticks with a tablespoon of almond butter or peanut butter. Comparable in calorie count (1 tbsp will contain approx 100 calories) almond butter is higher in fiber while peanut butter is higher in protein and vitamin E. Both are rich in minerals and have powerful antioxidant qualities.

Rich source of calcium, vitamin B, and protein, yogurt contains live bacteria providing loads of health benefits especially digestive health. A cup of plain low-fat yogurt is only 100 calories and for added interest add one or more of :
1/2 cup berries
A tablespoon of nuts
1 tbsp honey
A sprinkle of cinnamon

Yogurt can be used as a substitute for sour cream. Just put a small quantity of yogurt in a muslin cloth over a sieve. Place in the fridge overnight. The liquid will separate, leaving behind a creamy thick cream like yogurt.

Make tzatziki dip with yogurt and enjoy with veggies. For recipe click here.

Unsweetened applesaucee
A cup of unsweetened apple sauce is only a 100 calories and quite filling. If you are a big fan of apples, this will suit your palette. Can be eaten warm with a sprinkle of nuts or seeds to add texture and flavor.
Few more lunch ideas next week. until then.....

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snack and Lunch Ideas - part one

A few weeks back one of my friends gave me a recipe challenge. She said that she is bored with munching carrots and would like a different option for a healthy snack. Well this post is all about exploring different options for snack some of which can be easily converted to lunch.
What is healthy snacking?
  1. Aiming for a 100-200 calorie snack in between each of your three main meals. This keeps you going till your next meal without making you super hungry, so you are not tempted to go the easy and quick route of grabbing fast food such as burgers, fries.
  2. Limiting snacks to no more than two a day.
  3. Including a combination of two or more food groups for each snack.
  4. Choosing a combination of complex carbohydrates(which means high in fiber as well) and protein. This will make you feel full for a longer time.
  5. Choosing a snack that is low in fat, sugar and salt.
  6. Understanding how much to eat at a time. So never snack out of the box, always take out a portion.
  7. Choosing fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grain products and nuts and seeds more often.
  8. Avoiding snacking while watching T.V.
  9. Nutritious snacking helps keep your energy level high and mind alert without taking up a lot of your time.
Here are some ideas.

Widely considered a vegetable avocado is actually a fruit with a rich creamy texture and an excellent source of potassium and high in fiber. A medium sized avocado will be around 200 -300 calories and its almost the only fruit which is a rich source of mono saturated fat. All the above reasons make it a great snack. Remember it is calorie dense, so portion accordingly.
Peel and de-seed the avocado and cut into small chunks. Sprinkle with lime juice to prevent it from browning. You can have this as is or with celery sticks/baked crisps.
Make this into lunch by following the recipe below.

Cucumber and avocado Salad
Ingredients:(Serves 4)
3 Avocados
1 small english cucumber
juice and rind of 1 lime
salt to taste
bunch fresh mint chopped finely
1/2 cup blanched and slivered almonds
  1. Chop cucumber into bite sized pieces. If using field cucumbers then peel and chop.
  2. Cut avocados into bite sized chunks as well.
  3. Add all the ingredients together and mix well making sure avocados don't get smashed.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to let flavors blend.
  5. Serve cold. Makes an excellent snack as well

Having its origin in the middle east, hummus is a thick spread made of mashed chickpeas with tahini (sesame paste), garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. With only 45 calories in about 2 tablespoonfuls, hummus is a great source of fiber and protein, has a low glycemic index, meaning it should keep you satiated for long. Good choice for vegetarian and lactose intolerant diets. Tastes wonderful with carrots and celery sticks, baked crisps, or by itself.
Make it into lunch by spreading it inside half a pita pocket along with any of these things --cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, cooked and flaked tuna, dollop of plain yogurt, chickpea patties.

Ingredients:(makes 2 cups)
1 can chickpeas(19 oz)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
handful fresh coriander
hot pepper sauce (optional)
Reserve the liquid of the chickpeas.
Add all the ingredients in the blender and puree. You will need to add about a 1/4 cup or more of the reserved liquid in it to help puree.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Can be kept for 4-5 days.

Nuts and seeds (love your heart? go nuts)
Choose these nuts and seeds alone or in combination. These are concentrated sources of energy and high in calories, so be careful about the serving size while snacking. Add these to any salad for a more wholesome meal. Read more 
almonds (10 = 70-80 calories) rich in manganese, vit E, copper.
walnuts (1/4 cup = 163 calories) omega 3 fatty acids, manganese.
sunflower seeds roasted (1/4 cup = 67 calories) rich in selenium, magnesium, vitE.
pumpkin seeds (1 tbsp = 60 calories) has anti-inflammatory benefits in arthritis.
Make your own fruit and nut chocolates. For recipe go here.

Raw sprouted moong for snack
Sprouted Beans 
Sprouting beans increases their nutritive value by decreasing their calorific content by 15%, increasing their protein availability by 30% and increasing their vitamin A, B, C content by an astounding amount. Sprouts are rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Sprouts should preferably be eaten raw or briefly steamed lest they loose much of the vitamins.
The beans most suitable for sprouting are Kala Chana, Moong whole and Black eye beans. Soak them overnight. Drain out all the water and cover the container tight. Leave in a warm area to allow the beans to sprout. In colder climate it might take several days (2-3) for sprouting to occur.
Cooked sprouted moong salad for lunch
Eat them raw as a snack or use them in a salad. Steam in a pressure cooker with just 1/4 cup of water only till it whistles. Shut the heat and quickly remove them from the cooker, otherwise they get overcooked. 
I usually combine these with chopped red onion, cucumber, green chilies, fresh coriander, salt and lime juice. Sometimes I also add tomato, grated carrots and boiled potato. This salad makes a wholesome lunch liked by kids and adults alike. 

A rich source of vitamins and minerals and high in protein, one egg only contains 75 calories. Boiled egg is a wonderful snack at any time of day. Serve it over a salad for lunch.
Here is a great snack idea - Deviled eggs with guacamole. See recipe here . A wonderful breakfast idea, recipe here .

A cup of berries is only 65 calories, a medium banana or a pear or an apple is 100 calories. These are all snacks on the go and with great nutritional benefits. other ways to incorporate fruits in your snack:

  1. Combine these with nuts for example almond butter for enhanced taste. 
  2. Dip fruit small quantities of dark chocolate for more flavor and variety. 
  3. Add fruits to your salad.

More Snack and lunch ideas next week...........until then.